Basketball Minutes

Maybe my favorite exercise during the basketball preseason is projecting minutes. I always get it wrong, I always hand minutes to guys who won’t be playing by January, but I keep doing it anyway. I’m all Oprah when I do this. “YOU get minutes and YOU get minutes and YOU get…”

So let’s start by looking at the minutes last year. This is always an odd exercise, and Minutes Per Game are always listed as “per game” – Mike Shaw averaged 3.6 minutes “per game” but played in less than half our games – so when I go to distribute minutes for this team, I’m really basing it on 200 total minutes which doesn’t add up when you have players sitting for several games but then playing I’ll just stop talking and start with last year’s minutes:

DJ Richardson – 34 mpg
Brandon Paul – 32
Tracy Abrams – 29
Nnanna Egwu – 25
Joseph Bertrand – 23
Tyler Griffey – 22
Sam McLaurin – 21
Myke Henry – 10
Devin Langford – 4

Hey look that adds up to 200.

OK, first step. Minutes lost. We only return three of the nine players listed above. Tracy Abrams (29 minutes), Nnanna Egwu (25 minutes), and Joseph Bertrand (23 minutes). Doing some quick math here… that’s 77 minutes… which means we lost 61.5% of our minutes from last year. When is the last time we lost more than 60%? Probably not 2011, so… 2009? 2005? I’m too lazy to look it up right now.

So let’s start with the returning players. Let’s take Tracy and bump him up to somewhere around Brandon or DJ’s minutes – I’ll put him at 33. And let’s add maybe three minutes to Nnanna (28 per game) and four minutes to JoeBert (27).

Tracy Abrams – 33
Nnanna Egwu – 28
Joseph Bertrand – 27

Ok, 112 minutes remaining. Let’s start with the transfers. I think it’s likely that the other two starters will be Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice and ISU transfer Jon Ekey. I guess there’s a chance that one of the freshmen beats out Rice (Malcolm Hill or Kendrick Nunn), and maybe one of the freshman bigs is ready immediately and starts in front of Ekey (Austin Colbert or Maverick Morgan), but more than likely it’s Rice and Ekey. I’m going to give Ekey all of the Tyler Griffey minutes (he’s our new stretch four), and let’s put Rice right at 25 minutes per game.

Tracy Abrams – 33
Nnanna Egwu – 28
Joseph Bertrand – 27
Rayvonte Rice – 25
Jon Ekey – 22

That’s 135 minutes from our starters. Last year we got 141 minutes from our starters, so we’re probably right about there.

Now the tricky part: minutes from the freshmen. I say “minutes from the freshmen” and not “minutes from the bench” because the entire bench will be freshmen. We have 13 scholarship players, and three of them have to sit out this season (Ahmad Starks, Aaron Cosby, and Darius Paul). Which means every time we turn to the bench, we’re putting in a freshman.

Actually, maybe that’s not true. Can Mike LaTulip crack the rotation? Maybe. He’s spent a year in this system, and looking at this roster, we could really use a few minutes from a shooter. And when I chatted with Coach Groce in June, he mentioned how he was going to lean on his five returning guys – Abrams, Egwu, Bertrand, Rice, and LaTulip – to teach the nine newcomers how things are done around Champaign. So let’s keep LaTulip in mind as we go through this.

65 minutes to give away. Last year, JoeBert was our first guard off the bench (23 minutes), and Sam McLaurin was our first big off the bench (21 minutes, sometimes as a starter). This year, I can’t see our sixth and seventh men getting that many minutes, mostly because they’ll be freshmen. I’m guessing we get a little more situational with our substitutions (need defense here, need scoring punch there, Maverick Morgan uses all five fouls to slow down Mitch McGary, etc.)

The first step, I think, is to find our primary ball handler when Tracy Abrams is out of the game. Conventional wisdom says it will be Jaylon Tate – he is a point guard after all – but I think there’s a chance that Kendrick Nunn can fill in there a bit. After watching some high school highlight films this summer, I think Nunn is a little better ballhandler than I thought. Which would really be the best case scenario. Of all of the freshmen, Nunn is probably the closest to being ready, so if he can fill in at the point that helps.

I think all five freshmen will rotate in during the non-conference portion of the schedule, but by conference season, I’ll guess that we’ll be down to an eight man rotation, with one of the guards and one of the forwards sitting for most games. That’s probably easier to say about the guards than it is the forwards, given that we only have four forwards on the roster. If we only play three of them, that probably means that Joe Bertrand is seeing some time guarding the other team’s power forward when we go four guards/wings + Egwu (which I might be OK with).

So I’ll give minutes to all five, but I’ll say that Tate and Colbert’s minutes are Langford/Shaw like (dwindle at the end of the season). And yes, I’m giving six minutes to LaTulip. Because there’s a chance the freshmen just aren’t ready and we need someone who knows the system (and can shoot the three).

Tracy Abrams – 33
Nnanna Egwu – 28
Joseph Bertrand – 27
Rayvonte Rice – 25
Jon Ekey – 22
Kendrick Nunn – 19
Malcolm Hill – 17
Maverick Morgan – 14
Mike LaTulip – 6
Austin Colbert – 5
Jaylon Tate – 4

That’s really hard to do, you know? If Tate is really our only other ballhandling option, he might get 12 minutes per game. If Colbert is farther along than Morgan, we might flip those numbers. If nobody can handle the ball, we might send Tracy out there for 38 minutes per game. It’s difficult to know before we see how the freshmen perform under the lights.

But that’s never stopped us from distributing minutes before. I don’t usually do this, but I’m actually going to solicit comments on this one. What are your thoughts? Tracy and Joe too low? Way too many minutes for Morgan? This year isn’t easy with all the newcomers, so I’m really curious what others have to say.

Comments

  1. LongLiveTheChief98 says:

    I think at least one of Egwu or Bertrand will be above 30 mins. Other than that, this looks pretty probable.

  2. I think Joe and Rice will have to be in the 30-35 range. We’re really going to have to lean on Tracy, Joe, and Ray for heavy minutes. Nnanna could play more if he could stay out of foul trouble. Looking at the roster this way is a little scary – when is the last time the first three off the bench were freshmen? Man, we’re thin. Easy to see why Groce took a gamble on Starks – he really, really needed him this year.

    Great post.

  3. The nucleus of last year’s team was DJ, Paul, Abrams and Egwu. This year it will be Abrams, Egwu, Rice and Bertrand. I think Rice will be around 28-30 mpg and the others I’ll agree with you on.

    As for the rest of the team, the biggest thing that stands out in your predictions is the backup PG. I’m not sure Nunn’s strong enough with his right hand yet to handle that role. So I think the backup PG minutes have to be split between Tate and LaTulip. I’m guessing Tate gets around 15 mpg and LaTulip maybe about 8. I’d move Hill and Nunn down to the 12 min range.

  4. I’m in part basing this on Coach Groce’s conference and what GHD over at illinoisloyalty.com projected as players and positions.

    Player___________Year__5__4__3__2__1
    Morgan__________FR___X____________
    Egwu*___________JR___X____________
    Colbert__________FR___X____________
    Ekey*_________rs-SR______X_________
    Bertrand*______rs-SR______X__X______
    Hill_____________FR_________X______
    Rice*_________rs-JR______X__X__X__x
    Nunn___________FR____________X__
    Abrams*_________JR____________x__X
    Tate____________FR_______________X

    I see Rice as the second point guard and Abrams will be picking up DJ like minutes. The starters are going to have to pick up a big part of the load (the bench are freshman… playing in the B1G). Morgan helps spell Egwu. Nunn lets Rice slide over to the point. Hill let’s Bertrand play some minutes at the 4. I think that Jaylon could be a really good point guard, but asking a freshman to pick up serious minutes at the point in the B1G is asking a lot. If he’s up to it, he’ll play more.

    Tracy Abrams – 33
    Nnanna Egwu – 32
    Rayvonte Rice – 30
    Joseph Bertrand – 29
    John Ekey – 21

    145 minutes from starters

    Malcom Hill – 14
    Kendrick Nunn – 12
    Maverick Morgan – 10
    Austin Colbert – 8
    Jaylon Tate – 6
    Mike LaTulip – 5

  5. BexleyIllini says:

    I’ve seen a few comments about how LaTulip has added strength in the offseason. Any information on this? Last year he didn’t look like he was carrying much on his frame. This may be a factor in how many minutes he gets.

  6. Orangeandblue4eva says:

    Robert you do not seem as high on Rice as most other people-lots of people think he will be our best player and not even a question if he will start or not. Thoughts?

  7. I think a few more minutes for Tate, and probably for Colbert, both out of near necessity. Maybe we’ll play small more than I think we will, but I expect Colbert to get the opportunity to show he can earn minutes.

    I’m not buying it on LaTulip. He’s a walk-on with a walk-on’s game, and is likely to again get walk-on minutes.

  8. Hey Robert,
    Great site. I wanted to let you know a few observations from this weekend’s coaching clinic. First off the best part is seeing 3 practices over the two days. As a coach, Groce is simply awesome to watch. Secondly, we get to see how early roster decisions are shaping up. A couple of observations:
    - Rice was playing the 2 & 3 and did not see anytime at the 1 or 4. Ray is going to play a lot of minutes. (At last year’s clinic, Coach Groce was VERY high on Ray Rice and how good he was AT THAT TIME…we all know how he’s changed his body for this year so….)
    - Malcolm Hill was playing the 4 exclusively.
    - From my observations Austin Colbert is ahead of Mav Morgan. Colbert was working at both 4 & 5 in all practices and had a surprisingly nice looking shot.
    - my main questions is backup PG. Starks looked quite good, but as we know he won’t be playing. The only players running at the 1 were Starks, Abrams, Tate, & LaTulip So take that for what it’s worth.
    - Abrams & LaTulip were both playing the 1 & 2.

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